Residents and businesses in Northern Ireland are being promised faster broadband services following an announcement by the Northern Ireland Assembly Government to provide a minimum 2Mbps broadband service in rural areas and 10Mbps in urban areas within 18 months. This will be of significant benefit, particularly to those living in rural areas who cannot yet get any broadband at all. This compares with the UK government's Universal Service Commitment of a 2Mbps service across the country by 2012.
Of particular note is the commitment to 10Mbps in urban areas, something which mainland UK has lacked and there are still notspots and slow-spots in what would be considered urban areas.
The universal service will be delivered by BT after winning a competitive tender and promising to invest £30m with the remaining £18m being contributed by various public funds including an EU grant. It is expected that fibre optic cabling will be used to deliver much of this coverage with 166 exchanges upgraded and 1,176 new 'access points' which we believe refers to a fibre-to-the-cabinet solution, a significant step in the right direction.
"Broadband is an enabler - use of these new services will enable our businesses to increase their productivity, improving the competitiveness of the economy as a whole. [..] At a time of economic slowdown, this multi-million pound injection in our infrastructure has the potential to indirectly create up to 1,000 additional jobs per annum."Arlene Foster, Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Investment
Northern Ireland has been lagging at the bottom of UK regions in terms of average broadband speeds at around 2.7Mbps against a UK average of 3.6Mbps. The slowest English average speed in the survey published earlier this year was 3.2 Mbps. This news will be particularly welcome to those in rural areas who have the most to benefit.
If you can't get broadband speeds of at least 2Mbps, or worse, can't get broadband at all, please register your details on our Broadband Notspot site.